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Chemical Reaction vs. Physical Reaction: What's the Difference?

Edited by Sawaira Riaz || By Sumera Saeed || Updated on October 8, 2023
Chemical reactions alter substances at a molecular level, forming new compounds. Physical reactions change the form but not the identity of a substance.

Key Differences

Chemical reactions involve the breaking and forming of chemical bonds, leading to the creation of entirely new substances with distinct physical and chemical properties. Physical reactions, conversely, do not give rise to new substances but merely change the physical state or appearance of the original substance, maintaining its inherent properties.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 08, 2023
In a chemical reaction, the reactants interact to create one or more different products, often releasing or absorbing energy in the process. However, in a physical reaction, the substance undergoing change might shift between states, like from a liquid to a solid, but its molecular structure remains unchanged and no new substances are formed.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 08, 2023
Chemical reactions typically are irreversible under standard conditions, meaning they cannot simply be undone by reversing the applied conditions. Physical reactions, on the other hand, are generally reversible, allowing the substance to revert to its original state by altering conditions like temperature or pressure.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 08, 2023
One example of a chemical reaction is the burning of paper, where the paper (cellulose) reacts with oxygen in the air to form new substances: carbon dioxide and water. In contrast, melting ice exemplifies a physical reaction as the water molecules rearrange from a solid lattice structure to a liquid state, but no new substance is formed.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 08, 2023

Comparison Chart

Word Count

Two
Two
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Oct 08, 2023
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Syllable Count

Five
Five
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Oct 08, 2023

Letter Count

Sixteen
Seventeen
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Oct 08, 2023

Usage in Literature

Often in scientific contexts
Often in scientific contexts
Aimie Carlson
Oct 08, 2023

Common Abbreviation

Not commonly abbreviated
Not commonly abbreviated
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Oct 08, 2023

Chemical Reaction and Physical Reaction Definitions

Chemical Reaction

Chemical reactions involve the rearrangement of atoms to create new compounds.
Photosynthesis is a chemical reaction that transforms carbon dioxide and water into glucose and oxygen.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 08, 2023
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Physical Reaction

A physical reaction entails a change in the state or form of a substance without altering its chemical identity.
The freezing of water into ice is a physical reaction, as it alters state but not composition.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 08, 2023

Chemical Reaction

Chemical reactions can be categorized into various types, such as synthesis, decomposition, and displacement reactions.
The corrosion of iron is a chemical reaction where iron reacts with oxygen to form rust.
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Oct 08, 2023

Physical Reaction

Physical reactions do not involve changes in the atoms’ arrangement or the formation of new bonds.
The chopping of vegetables is a physical reaction as it alters shape but not the chemical structure.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 08, 2023

Chemical Reaction

A chemical reaction is a process where reactants convert into products with altered chemical properties.
The reaction between hydrogen and oxygen to form water is a vital chemical reaction.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 08, 2023

Physical Reaction

Physical reactions include changes like dissolution, sublimation, and phase transitions without forming new substances.
The sublimation of dry ice into carbon dioxide gas is a physical reaction.
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Oct 08, 2023

Chemical Reaction

Chemical reactions obey the law of conservation of mass, maintaining total mass before and after the reaction.
In the chemical reaction of baking soda and vinegar, the total mass remains constant throughout the reaction.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 08, 2023

Physical Reaction

Physical reactions generally involve changes that are reversible by altering physical conditions.
The condensation of water vapor into liquid water is a reversible physical reaction.
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Oct 08, 2023

Chemical Reaction

A chemical reaction may involve the absorption or emission of energy, often in the form of heat, light, or sound.
The combustion of gasoline in an engine is a chemical reaction that releases energy in the form of heat and light.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 08, 2023

Physical Reaction

In a physical reaction, the molecular structure of the substance remains intact throughout the change.
The dissolution of salt in water is a physical reaction since it can be recovered through evaporation.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 08, 2023

FAQs

Are chemical reactions reversible?

While some chemical reactions are reversible under certain conditions, many are not easily reversed.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 08, 2023

Can physical reactions be easily reversed?

Yes, physical reactions are generally reversible by changing conditions like temperature or pressure.
Janet White
Oct 08, 2023

Can physical reactions form new substances?

No, physical reactions only change the state or appearance of a substance without forming new substances.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 08, 2023

Do chemical reactions always involve energy changes?

Yes, chemical reactions often involve energy changes, either absorbing or releasing energy.
Harlon Moss
Oct 08, 2023

What’s an example of an undesirable physical reaction?

Food spoilage, like an apple browning, involves undesirable physical and chemical reactions.
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Oct 08, 2023

Can a substance undergo both chemical and physical reactions simultaneously?

Yes, a substance can undergo both, like melting and burning plastic.
Harlon Moss
Oct 08, 2023

What’s an example of a chemical reaction in everyday life?

Rust forming on iron is a common chemical reaction encountered daily.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 08, 2023

Can physical reactions be demonstrated in a lab?

Absolutely, for example, melting ice can demonstrate a physical reaction in a lab setting.
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Oct 08, 2023

Why do chemical reactions occur?

Chemical reactions occur due to the rearrangement of atoms to achieve lower energy states or greater stability.
Janet White
Oct 08, 2023

Can physical reactions occur in living organisms?

Yes, physical reactions, like water evaporating from skin, occur in living organisms.
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Oct 08, 2023

Does breaking glass represent a chemical or physical reaction?

Breaking glass is a physical reaction as it alters shape but not chemical composition.
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Oct 08, 2023

Can the rate of chemical and physical reactions be altered?

Yes, factors like temperature, pressure, and catalysts can affect the rate of both chemical and physical reactions.
Janet White
Oct 08, 2023

Does a physical reaction involve changes in color?

Typically no, physical reactions do not involve color changes as no new substances are formed.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 08, 2023

How are chemical reactions utilized in industries?

Chemical reactions are fundamental in industries, such as producing plastics, medicines, and fuels.
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Oct 08, 2023

What initiates a chemical reaction?

A chemical reaction begins when reactants come into contact and react to form products due to collisions between particles.
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Oct 08, 2023

What's an example of a fast chemical reaction?

The explosion of fireworks is an example of a rapid chemical reaction.
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Oct 08, 2023

What's a real-life consequence of a chemical reaction?

The chemical reaction in batteries provides electrical energy to power devices.
Sara Rehman
Oct 08, 2023

Are molecules altered in a physical reaction?

No, physical reactions don’t alter the molecular structure of a substance.
Janet White
Oct 08, 2023

Can a physical reaction occur without changing the state of a substance?

Yes, physical reactions like dissolving sugar in water don’t change the state of the dissolved substance.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 08, 2023

Is fire a result of a chemical reaction?

Yes, fire results from combustion, which is a chemical reaction between a fuel and oxygen.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 08, 2023
About Author
Written by
Sumera Saeed
Sumera is an experienced content writer and editor with a niche in comparative analysis. At Diffeence Wiki, she crafts clear and unbiased comparisons to guide readers in making informed decisions. With a dedication to thorough research and quality, Sumera's work stands out in the digital realm. Off the clock, she enjoys reading and exploring diverse cultures.
Edited by
Sawaira Riaz
Sawaira is a dedicated content editor at difference.wiki, where she meticulously refines articles to ensure clarity and accuracy. With a keen eye for detail, she upholds the site's commitment to delivering insightful and precise content.

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